The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated eastern Georgian Bay and the 30,000 Islands as a world biosphere reserve in 2004. Stretching 200 kilometres from the Severn River to the French River, it contains the world’s largest freshwater archipelago, as well as habitat for many species at risk. There are currently 18 biosphere reserves in Canada and more than 600 worldwide.
The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) is a registered charity that works to protect the environment, create vibrant communities and support a healthy economy. Working with many partners across the region, the GBBR relies on grants, members and donations to achieve its mandate of conservation, education and sustainable development.
The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve is situated in the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, and is now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
We acknowledge the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and celebrate Indigenous languages within the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve.
The biosphere reserve is an umbrella organization under which scientists, researchers, citizens and community groups work together on conservation efforts. This collaboration makes programs more effective and leads to better decision-making.
Parks & protected areas within the biosphere reserve give us places from which to monitor environmental changes over the long term. This information gathering, along with our work with area municipalities and First Nations, helps us identify opportunities to protect biodiversity. The GBBR’s conservation work also supports research and training, including species at risk education since 2008.
Our Cultural Advisory Circle shares Indigenous perspectives and builds a network of groups across our diverse communities. We support Indigenous language revitalization through youth, elder and community activities. We are honoured to participate in powwows and other cultural ceremonies, and we are learning how to put reconciliation into action.
Education (for all ages) is at the heart of the GBBR’s work. Planting vegetable and butterfly gardens, counting bugs and birds, water testing and restoring habitat, promoting cycling and trails—these are all the work of a community-based biosphere reserve.
Working with schools throughout the region, we support getting students outdoors. Our Lessons in a Backpack program, for example, encourages the use of school grounds for nature education. Lessons for grades one to nine provide local learning resources and field trips. And high-school students organize our annual Children’s Water Festival, which shows Grade 5 students the importance of water. You can learn more at gbbr.ca/education.
Kids in the Biosphere activities are designed for families interested in learning more about Georgian Bay. The Best for the Biosphere plant list teaches people how to provide habitat for wildlife. And our Life on the Bay guide is for property owners interested in reducing their environmental impact.
Sustainable development can only be achieved by working with other groups and organizations committed to the same goals. We encourage use of the best science and knowledge to create sustainable jobs, manage our resources, generate clean energy and support biodiversity.
For example, we network with other groups to support food-security programs such as Community Gardens and Community Kitchens, which help people connect socially while providing local, healthy and affordable food. Active-transportation initiatives support safe walking and cycling routes, making communities less reliant on fossil fuels.
Finally, we celebrate our UNESCO designation through our Amazing Places program, which showcases our unique landscape. You can learn more about these important areas within the biosphere at visitamazingplaces.ca.
A Gem in the Great Lakes
The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve is a globally unique freshwater archipelago of islands, acting as a natural corridor for species movement across land and water. Relatively few roads and lower development have made this region an important place for species conservation. However, with more local development, expanding road networks, the spread of invasive species and climate change, our biodiversity is at risk.
Our Community Projects
Lessons-in-a-Backpack for schools
Water Festival & Kids in the Biosphere
Species at Risk research, monitoring & training
Landowner stewardship tools
Support environmental research
StateoftheBay.ca ecosystem report
Work with parks & protected areas
Community gardens & kitchens
Eat Around the Sound workshops
Celebrate Indigenous Culture
Respect traditional knowledge
Help preserve language & culture
Partners in Action
Thank you to our funding partners who have made this project possible and to the many businesses, townships, organizations, and volunteers that have invested in the State of the Bay program.
To explore your region, learn more, donate or get involved, visit the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve.
- Aisha Chiandet, Severn Sound Environmental Association
- Andrew Promaine, Georgian Bay Islands National Park
- Arunas Liskauskas, MNRF UGLMU
- Bill Lougheed, Georgian Bay Land Trust
- Bob Duncanson, Georgian Bay Association
- Christy Doyle, Muskoka Watershed Council
- David Sweetnam, Georgian Bay Forever
- Greg Mason, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve
- Julia Sutton, Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council
- Rebecca Willison, Muskoka Watershed Council
- Delaina Arnold
- David Bywater
- Katrina Krievins
- Becky Pollock
- Copy editor: Chad Fraser
- Brady Carpenter
- Diana Clements
- Emily Corbett
- Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council
- Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve
- Georgian Bay Forever
- Georgian Bay Land Trust
- Scott Gillingwater
- Johna Hupfield
- J E (Ted) Krug
- Claire Lasraneois
Authors: Tianna Burke, David Bywater, Bev Clark, Katrina Krievins, Carolyn Paterson, Rebecca Pollock
Contributors: Dr. David Barton, Graham Bryan, Aisha Chiandet, Bev Clark, Alice Dove, Stephen James, Arunas Liskauskas, Britney MacLeod, Greg Mayne, Scott Parker, Daniel Rokitnicki-Wojcik, Dr. Peter Sale, Heather Sargeant, Shawanaga First Nation, Keith Sherman, Jocelyn Sherwood, David Sweetnam, Warren Tabobondung
Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario Region Biodiversity Atlas, District of Muskoka, Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada Canadian Ice Service, Georgian Bay Forever, Lake Partner Program, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Upper Great Lakes Management Unit, Muskies Canada Incorporated, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory CoastWatch, Prairie Climate Centre, Severn Sound Environmental Association, United States Environmental Protection Agency, United States Environmental Protection Agency Great Lakes National Program Office, United States Geological Survey, United States Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center.